Organic eating wasn’t on my radar till it was time to feed my first baby solid food back in 1990. Earth’s Best OG applesauce was just hitting the shelves in Charlotte supermarkets. You’d think a dedicated hippie-type like me would have known about such things, being into natural foods for decades, yet it just wasn’t in my consciousness till there was the motherly incentive of not filling the new mouth with anything less than the best I could find. The internet wasn’t yet commonly accessible (dial up was available, but there was no worldwide web to connect to), libraries still had card catalogs, and health food markets were tiny little places few and far between. Food consciousness was yet to hit the masses. By that time, I’d retired from business to get married (did it all backwards and late, and still do), become a foodie before the word was invented, and a creative cook (no thanks to mom, who was an okay cook, but safely in the box), and yet the concept of organic had not yet dawned on me. Call me a late bloomer, but when I got it, I got it!
Of course, the babies got the best first, and the rest of us followed as we could find organic produce. We learned about and participated in CSAs (Community Supported Agricluture). Talley’s Green Grocery opened in Charlotte in 1991 and made a huge difference in accessibility. Eating organic was expensive, we had to pick and choose, but I knew it was worth it. Trips to visit friends in Berkeley, CA showed us how available and affordable it could be, and when we moved to Asheville in 2001, an organic lifestyle became exponentially easier. We are SO FORTUNATE to live in a conscious community surrounded by farmers who support us and whom we can support!
Now the babies are grown and flown to college, and while it costs less to feed just two at home, there is the added element of time not dedicated to child-raising that broadens my access to organic produce: I can garden and grow my own!!! Which is easier said than done for a city girl, but I’m learning, thanks in large part to OGS. The Organic Growers School has been a source of encouragement, inspiration, hope and information for my early efforts. My fourth season is sprouting as I write, with bigger and better plans than the first three. And though I’ve been asked to share my growing adventures with others, I cannot overemphasize that I AM A BEGINNER GARDENER, and furthermore, not a natural gardener in that I wasn’t raised on a farm or even near a garden, my childhood was devoid of fresh vegetables, and I have purple thumbs. And yet I’ve grown artichokes, kohlrabi and more sugar snaps than a stink bug invasion could deter! I grow veggies in my front yard for the world to see! Grow with me! Take some workshops at the upcoming OGS Spring Conference on March 9-10, learn to do something new and then do it! Then let’s compare notes…
Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis
Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis retired from manufacturing to start her fourth career as wife and mother at 37, she now, at 63, enjoys dabbling in various voluntary efforts to “save the world.” She’s a self-trained creative cook and lover of ethnic cuisines and her consistent passion for food has evolved to embrace the Local Food movement, so much so that she now grows food in her front yard (can’t get more local than that!). If Ellen can do this, anyone can. Ellen is a 13-year transplant to Asheville via Tampa, Washington DC suburbs (most of them) and Charlotte.